Sotheby’s sales dominated by Magritte


On 2 March, Sotheby’s prestige sales of Modern and Contemporary Art in London were dominated by several paintings by Claude Monet, three works by Banksy (from the collection of singer Robbie Williams) and, above all, a masterpiece by René Magritte which generated by far the best result.

$79.5 million: René Magritte’s new auction record

A new record was expected for Magritte’s exceptional and iconic Empire of Lights. Created in 1961 for Baroness Anne-Marie Gillion Crowet (daughter of Magritte’s patron, the Belgian Surrealist collector Pierre Crowet), the work had remained in the same family ever since. Before its exhibition and sale in London it was taken on a global road show to attract future bidders in Los Angeles, Hong Kong and New York.

Finally going under the hammer on 2 March, Magritte’s emblematic depiction of a twilight scene largely exceeded expectations (around 60 million dollars) when three phone bidders pushed the price to $79.5 million including fees, i.e. three times the artist’s previous record of $24.6 million (A la rencontre du plaisir, Christie’s London, 2020).

Demand for René Magritte’s works has never been stronger and his price index has shown a spectacular increase of +526% in 20 years. In 2021, his works generated $94.5 million giving the artist 20th place in our global ranking of artists by annual auction turnover, ahead of Paul Cézanne and David Hockney. However, this year, even before the first quarter has ended, Magritte’s creations have already generated more than last year’s total with $96 million hammered on 1 and 2 March (the day before, Christie’s sold five works by Magritte, for nearly $17 million in total).

René Magritte: chronological progression at auction. This year, even before the first quarter has ended, Magritte’s creations have already generated more than last year’s total.


Top 5 results, Modern and Contemporary Art, Sotheby’s, 2 March 2022

René MAGRITTE, L’Empire des lumières: 79,5m$

Claude MONET, Nymphéas: 31m$

Pablo PICASSO, Buste de femme accoudée, gris et blanc: 15,9m$

David HOCKNEY, Garrowby Hill: 18,7m$

Vincent VAN GOGH, A Pair of Lovers: 13,4m$



Top 5 results, The Now Evening Auction, Sotheby’s, 2 March 2022

BANKSY, Vandalised Oil (Choppers): 5,8m$

Cecily BROWN, Faeriefeller: 3,9m$

BANKSY, Girl with Balloon: 3,7m$

George CONDO, Green Head Composition: 3,1m$

Hurvin ANDERSON, Lower Lake III: $3.7 million (double high estimate)


On 2 March, Sotheby’s sales generated a total turnover of $297 million compared with Christie’s total of $330 million the previous day from its three sales (see our article: Christie’s took $330 million on 1 March).